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Explaining Controversial History This project builds upon the earlier “History at Work” project for this class. History is often viewed as something that never changes over time. However, how we remember the past is often shaped by our perspectives and background. These varying viewpoints can lead to groups interpreting the same event in different ways. Additionally, new information often arises that causes us to rethink why events and topics took place and how they happened. Similarly, groups who may have been dismissed when the history of a topic or event was initially written may offer new perspectives that require us to reevaluate how we remember past events. The influence of perspectives, new information, and new groups all combine to sometimes “change” the history of a certain event or topic. Trying to explain these topics and events to the public, particularly when the “new” version conflicts with the “old” will often lead to challenges for historians. Such changes can lead to tension in how the past should be remembered. Historians sometimes find themselves directly in the center of these controversies (occasionally even serving as the source of the tension). For the “Explaining Controversial History” project, students will develop a presentation that addresses a specific historical controversy and issues that can arise when historians try to explain the history of certain events to the public. For your presentation, you will select a controversial historical topic that has grabbed public attention and involved those who work in various fields of History (Historians, museum curators, historic site interpreters, etc.). In your presentation, address the following: • Why does the past seem to change when we discuss historical topics and events? (Think of this as a separate issue from the controversial topic you are addressing, but important to understanding why the history of a topic seems to change sometimes). • Summarize the controversial issue that you have selected (what is/was the controversy?). Is there disagreement on how to tell the story or remember the event? • How has the “story” of this event/event changed over time (Was there an older way of explaining the topic? Has a new way of explaining the topic emerged? Or, has the story and the way it is presented to the public remained relatively unchanged?). • Have there been a specific modern or recent event/events that sparked controversy over the topic? • What groups are/were involved in the controversy (this can be at the local level or in the US more broadly)? • How were historians/museum staff connected to, or involved, in the controversy? What has been their role (if any)? • What was the outcome of the controversy (was there resolution or is the issue ongoing)? Potential topics for this project include: • Debate over interpreting historic sites that address Native American history. • Removing Native American artifacts from museums and returning them to their owners (you can expand this topic include similar international efforts to return museum artifacts expropriated by European nations during the colonialism to their nations of origin). • The public display of Confederate war memorials. • Disputes on how museums and historic sites interpret war (A well-publicized controversy was the Smithsonian Institute’s 19954 Enola Gay and the end of World War II exhibit). • Controversy over how historic sites depict slavery (from exhibits on slavery to actual reenactments of slave auctions) These are just some ideas; feel free to find a topic of that you find particularly interesting. If you are unsure of your topic, feel free to run it by me first. Your “Explaining Controversial History” project can be submitted as a PowerPoint presentation, audio/video documentary, website (Google Sites is recommended), or in some other format other than a traditional written essay. Projects should include a mix of text, video, and images to help tell the story (audio presentations should include audio sources beyond your own voice). Below are some sources to spark ideas. The final project should include additional sources beyond those listed here: Why History Changes (National Council on Public History, “The Changing Past”) https://ncph.org/what-is-public-history/how-historians-work/the-changing-past/ (National Council on Public History, “The Contested Past”) https://ncph.org/what-is-public-history/how-historians-work/the-contested-past/ (NPR, “How the Understanding of US History Changes”) https://www.npr.org/2006/11/21/6517854/how-the-understanding-of-u-s-history-changes Explaining Sensitive Topics in History https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/08/03/487669486/at-these-museums-tragedy-is-a-history-lesson Brunswick Confederate Monument Controversy: (Georgia Public Broadcasting, “Heritage or Racism?”) https://www.gpb.org/news/2020/10/24/heritage-or-racism-confederate-monuments-fate-divides-brunswick (First Coast News, “Special Committee to Decide Fate of Brunswick Confederate Monument) https://www.firstcoastnews.com/article/news/local/special-committee-to-decide-fate-of-brunswick-confederate-monument/77-15668f7d-6551-4966-a5f7-f9d89786e924 Interpreting Slavery for the Public: (Conference on Depicting Slavery (Listen particularly to Christine Coleman, who speaks first) https://www.c-span.org/video/?311026-1/history-slavery-scholarship-museum-interpretation&event=311026&playEvent (Slavery Reenacted at Colonial Williamsburg): http://usslave.blogspot.com/2013/03/slavery-reinacted-at-colonial.html (Whitney Plantation Depicting Slavery) https://youtu.be/JfC8X2Os2z4 Rethinking Native American History: (Changes to Bear River Massacre Memorial) https://www.kpvi.com/news/local_news/bear-river-massacre-memorial-gets-new-plaque-focused-on-shoshone-history/article_6fc9248a-675f-11eb-98e8-f302f8c6898d.html Enola Gay Exhibit Controversy: (Enola Gay Controversy, NBC News Clip) https://youtu.be/qyQnK-dyyvg Vietnam War/Memorial Controversy (The Vietnam War, Americans Remember Vietnam) https://go.openathens.net/redirector/ccga.edu?url=https%3a%2f%2ffod.infobase.com%2fPortalPlaylists.aspx%3fwID%3d103325%26xtid%3d145816%26loid%3d483809 (The Vietnam War, Vietnam Memorial) https://go.openathens.net/redirector/ccga.edu?url=https%3a%2f%2ffod.infobase.com%2fPortalPlaylists.aspx%3fwID%3d103325%26xtid%3d145816%26loid%3d483810